'We will not launch a crusade, but we will take part in the debate'
Archbishop Paul Cremona said today that the Bill by Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando for the introduction of divorce was a bolt out of the blue since neither of the two parties in Parliament had promised such legislation.
Speaking in an RTK interview, Mgr Cremona did not mention the MP by name, but appeared to question his moral authority to present such a motion.
Mgr Cremona said one could discuss the relationship between MPs, Parliament and the people. MPs were elected by the people on the basis of what they were promised. At the last general election, AD had come out in favour of divorce, but the major parties had not, and one expected MPs to act within the promises made by their parties.
The Archbishop said the Church's consistent opposition to divorce was based on the fact that stable marriages were the best way forward for society and the country.
The State, therefore, should be working for stronger marriages - independently of whether the couples married at the altar or not.
Anything which went against the principle of the indissolublity of marriage harmed society, as had been shown abroad.
The issue, Mgr Cremona said, could be seen from two levels. The first was the teaching of Jesus that marriage was for ever.
The other was the stability of families. Those who were in favour of divorce argued that it would give them a new opportunity to marry. But statistics abroad showed that wherever there was divorce, families had become unstable rather than stable.
It did not hold water to argue that Malta should have divorce legislation because it already recognised divorce decrees given abroad. The recognition of oversees decrees may have come about to streamline international legislation, Mgr Cremona said, but that did not diminish the fact that divorce undermined marriage stability.
Replying to further questions - by RTK's Tonio Bonello - Mgr Cremona said that the Church was also against cohabitation because that was also a way for instability. The Church was in favour of legislation to protect vulnerable people, such as children whose parents cohabited, but that did not mean a recognition of cohabitation.
Mgr Cremona insisted that rather than divorce, the State should be bringing about the conditions to strengthen marriages. The breakdown of every marriage meant hardship.
When it was pointed out to the Archbishop that many people sought divorce because they were going through hardship, Mgr Cremona said that in most cases abroad, divorce was not sought by people who were suffering, but by people who wanted something else - such as men who wanted younger women.
Therefore, bringing about divorce created an injustice, and hardship, to the wives of such men.
Of course, he recognised that there were people who were suffering within their marriage, and such people deserved to be helped through other means.
Asked about the Church Tribunal which hears applications for annulment, Mgr Cremona said that as he had promised, he had worked to reduce the backlog of cases. Indeed, the turnover in the first instance stage of tribunal proceedings last year was 150 per cent higher than in the previous year.
However, he would not rest until practically all the backlog was cleared, Mgr Cremona said.
As for costs, he said that most costs went for lawyers and psychologists, but the direct Church costs were not high - the Church itself spent some €400,000 on the Tribunal every year. If was also investing in more human resources for faster turnover of cases.
Asked about the duty of Catholic MPs in the divorce debate, Mgr Cremona said that practising Catholics would be doing wrong not to respect their faith.
"Convinced Catholics have to vote for a stable marriage and against divorce".
Mgr Cremona said the Church would not be launching any crusade against divorce, but it intended to take an active part in the debate, and it expected that in a pluralistic, democratic society, its right to take part in such a debate would be respected. Its purpose, he said, was to inform the people on the teachings of Christ and what was right for society.
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